September 17, 2003
Friedman and the Fence
My father, Hebrew University political scientist Ira Sharkansky, responds to Thomas Friedman's latest column
Thomas Friedman reports that the Palestinians will react to an Israeli security fence by seeking a one-state solution. That is, they'll not be satisfied with a limited Palestine, but seek control of one country between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. A fence along the pre-1967 would be okay, but a fence that takes Palestinian land will turn the Palestinians aggressive and make them want to take over everything.
Wow. That's awesome. It's also not new. The Palestinians have been demanding a one-state solution at least since the 1920s. Every once in a while one of their intellectuals composes yet another verson of the threat: either give us what we want or we'll take everything. It's a pity that a usually savvy Friedman doesn't recognize that he's passing on something very old as something new.
What has their threat gained them? A leadership living in the ruins; streets carved up by Israeli tank treads; schools and health facilities that don't function; unemployment somewhere around or above 50% (who knows exactly without a reliable statistical service); barriers that keep them in their cities or neighborhoods; occasoinal curfews that keep them in their houses. It looks like they should try something other than threatening to take over all of Israel.
The world seems upset at the recent decision of the Israeli government to declare Arafat suitable to be discarded (killed, exiled, or closed up even more tightly in his headquarters). Lots of Israelis say it was a clumsy move. But there is an element here worth considering. It can be read as a formal announcement to the US government that Israel no longer will honor its commitment not to harm Arafat. And today we read that Arafat is pursuing a cease fire. Maybe he is worried about the Israeli announcement that others ridicule. The next suicide bomber may bring about his death.
European governments, the UN Secretary General, maybe the US State Department, and certainly the Israeli left will demand of Israel to deal with the resurrected and reformed Arafat who now may truly want peace. The first words from Israeli government officials are that Arafat long ago burned his bridges. His reputation is that of a deceitful performer rather than a credible negotiator with whom Israel can do business. We'll see what happens. Will there first be another suicide bomber, an Israeli liquidation, or a cease fire? It's an exciting place.
Back to Friedman: Undoubtedly he is one of the shrewdest of current commentators. He is right on target when he writes about extremism throughout the Muslim world and the unreliability of Palestinians and other Arabs who have a bad record about their acceptance of things western, democratic, or Jewish. But on the issue of Israeli settlements he is obsessed. He thinks they are the problem. If only Israel would dismantle them and go back to pre-1967 boundaries all will be well.
Will the extreme and unreliable Palestinians and other Muslims turn around at that point and become honest partners concerned about fair arrangements? The records of Syrian and Palestinian leaders who negotiated with the accommodating Barak administration suggest not. When offered generous terms (arguably all they had demanded initially), they kept demanding more. And the Palestinians turned to violence rather than continue negotiations.
Has Friedman discovered a political hocus pocus: the one thing that will bring peace to Israel, and ease the burdens of world leadership on the American administration? I'm more inclined to think that he has spent too much time in the desert, and is fooled by a mirage. The Palestinians scream about the settlements and the security fence. Their claims have some appeal for an international audience concerned about fairness, but they are only part of the story. It will take more than Arafat's claim of seeking a cease fire to change a reputation built on demanding a right of return for refugees created by wars initiated by Arabs, maps purveyed to school children that show all of Israel as Palestine, and praise for those who commit suicide as a way of dealing with the Zionist abomination.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at September 17, 2003 07:00 AM
"The next suicide bomber may bring about his death."
Interesting thought. Maybe the Israelis should make that public policy. "One more mass-murder bomb and Arafat gets it."
Your dad's a smart guy, and writes well. The acorn doesn't, apparently, fall far from the tree.
I don't like the idea of waiting for another suicide bomber to strike. However I agree that Friedman is way too impressed with himself and is overly obsessed with the "settlements" to the point where he moral equivalizes a lot between Hamas and "settlers." (BTW, is there a more despised group in the media then the "Israeli settlers"?) Also ever since 1968 the Bullshit Palis have always claimed that they wanted a "multireligious, pluralistic, democratic State of Palestine, where Jews, Muslims and Christians would live in peace." The fact there is no example of that at all in the Arab or Islamic world makes no difference to them. I can just see now the new startegy and mantra emerging "One nation for two peoples from the Jordan River to the Mediterrean Sea with equal rights for all." Yeah right, just like in Lebanon. The day when Israel starts taking security and diplomatic advice from Tom Firedman will be a sad day indeed.
Agreed that he writes very well.
My thoughts on Friedman's article are thusly: (impressing myself a Friedmanesque quality wink/wink)
1) Friedman sets up a situation like a novelist does. Settlements - all bad - and any inch over Green Line on Fence - bad -
Thus, if Israel does this then here is what they get! LIKE that, he crafted it himself. Some wrapped in some truth and some logic and some wrapped in Friedman careful weaving and fantasy. His way of saying BAD BOY and GOOD BOY.
2) The demographic problem for Israel is nonetheless a nightmare. And the stats don't even count the hundreds of thousands of illegal (UN Palestinians if there is such a thing) living in Israel proper as well as the West Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, too many Jews have been murdered and too many forceable converted throughout the world not just in Europe. In Afganistan (http://members.aol.com/pashtuns/losttribes.html)
there are about 5 million Pashtus (Devout Muslims) who however have MANY customs of the ancient Hebrews, including circumcision and Stars of David everywhere.
Further, Israelis a Western society do not have 5 or 6 babies more like barely over 2.
Of course Friedman uses this problem to slide into a solution that would prevent the Israelis from being BAD BOYS and result in Palestinians wanting a 1 State solution. Note, if the fence is exactly along the Green Line, then Poof, the Palestinian then DO NOT WANT THIS?
Of course, the Palestinian would NEVER demand this nor would the Arab states. This would mean a democracy in the Middle East and loss of power for Arafat and his cronies, and the empowering of the shit on Palestinian businesses, many of whom like doing business with the Israeli businesses. This would be a disaster for the Arab world.
So much so, I would be for such a solution as a last resort if the Israelis could get another 1-2 million perhaps some found "lost tribes" (A miracle eh?? who knows?) to emigrate, assimiliate and become zionists.
As far as the settlers are concerned being evil demonic people etc........... Leaving aside the issue of the settlements being just or legal or not. Let's carefully examine the settlers and how they are portrayed.
1) Are they rich aristocrats?
2) Are they violent nasty people?
3) Do they love the land they live on and cherish it?
4) Do they live in peace with their neighbors?
The answers in almost all situation are
Sure, the towns in Hebron have their hard line extremists, though they are of course not even accurately reported in Israeli liberal press, and often mis-portrayed and pre-judged always.
However, most towns contain poor, and immigrants, and dark and light skin, who love the land and cherish its history, who often provide free health care to their Arab neighbors and employed many (pre-Intifadah) etc....
Not that they don't create problems for Arab towns now and their question of legality isn't at least worhty of consideration.
What is valid to question is how to remain "unbaiased" and to at least tell a story (not the truth of course) that seems fair they must be de-humanized by the press as at least tacitally equal to Hamas and murderers and when they are murdered while driving their car, "a settler" was murdered and found hacked to death, not a mother of 5 or a relatively poor Indian immigrant studying Hebrew with his family etc....
Ah! Once more the Apartheid-apologists blather onwards. How can Israel be a "democracy" when Jews are "more equal" than everyone else? It's a logical impossibility.
Perhaps all of you "transfer"-loving people should read the two long essays published in Haaretz's Friday Magazine a couple weeks back, in which two old Sabras discussed the One-State solution, and told why they thought it was inevitable.
What's the matter with one state, with everyone equal? Oh--the "chosen people" will no longer be the "master race." But the fact is, the present unfortunate Nazi-esque practices of the Israel military/theocratic state are NOT a Jewish value.
Judaism does not equal Zionism. Perhaps all you Likudnik hawks should undertake a study of what Judaism is about: tolerance and respect for diversity; not a horizontal-hostility re-enactment of the Third Reich.
George, I think you should hit the meds a bit harder. And by the way if the Israeli Palestinian situation was solved, you know and the Bosox win the World Series, what would you then have to direct your repressed anger towards?
How can France be a democracy when Algerian Muslims now citizen are vastly more unequal than native French? In fact vastly more unequal in economic and and quality of life than Arab Israelis?
COULD YOU ADDRESS THIS FOR ME?
Israel cannot maintain control over the Holy Land from the Jordan to the sea indefinitely. At the same time, the Green Line border is too narrow at the waist, lacks strategic depth, and forces Israel to fight pre-emptively.
It is reasonable to insist on retaining some settlements that thicken the border around Jerusalem and on the highlands which dominate the coastal plain. But Hebron and Ariel are too far into hostile territory, and military liabilities
Let me just say I am not a particularly religious kind a guy, about twice a year on the high holy ones.
Hebron isn't about military or strategic depth. I read an article by a guy from the Jerusalem Post an excellent and fair piece. He gives the millenia old Jewish history and presence there and how both sides there have acted aggressively and unfairly. He sums up by saying,
"I don't know how Israel can survive by giving up its history and Hebron and I don't know how it can survive by holding on to it"
Ariel will be included except the far east settlements. Places like Eli and Shiloh and Beit El have similar meaning as Hebron but will be axed and lost. What's notable is that NOTHING existed in these places prior to Israeli winning the 67 War NADA........ From 48-67 the newly named 'West Bank' declined further in population and rotted even further. Arabs were leaving for "other parts" and Europe.
If there is a g-d he is going to force Israel to give up its birthright and beauty they have created and bloomed there and watch it plundered again. I truly believe that the Arabs will never make peace with Israel and will further plunder and just destroy the area there until a major conflagration of immense proportions takes place.
If there is a Messiah, maybe that will be his cue?
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Is Saudi Arabia an apartheid state? If not where are it's Jews?
In fact of the 20 or so Arab states only two or three are not apartheid states.
Why don't they get the same vituperation as Israel?
Something about Jews is it?